John Deere Warehouse, Illinois has its 2.6 million square foot facility here for its North American distribution business. Target built a 2 million square foot warehouse in Lacey, Washington, for their Import Warehouse and this one is biggest one, but there are more. And we can continue. And of cause – most of these huge place eaters are located in highly populated areas. Because you need hundreds of people working at these warehouses.
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That’s right, there are lot of storages are becoming more and more robotized, automated, but they still need lot of maintenance and people who pack, repack, check shipping. But the main points are still space. Storages are not being built in deserts; they occupy space, where people can live in better conditions than in social high rise buildings. They demand long fences with security systems and probably security issues. These places could be occupied with some useful infrastructure like education campuses, parks, relocation of industrial facilities from the cities to outskirts.
We actually do not have many options to decrease footprint for warehouses like this. They need a lot of space. So there to ways – we go up, or we go down. Going up and higher is a well-known option as high bay storages. Manufacturers like SSI Schaefer, Stow, and Kocher produce well-known solutions which let customer use their space as much as possible. But they still need space on surface. They need a piece of land. And what should they do if they do not have this land? They have to go underground.
People lived and worked underground from ancient times. One of these settlements is the town of Setenil de las Bodegas (Spain). Part of it is above the ground, and the other is a network of cave rooms under the cliffs – there are about three thousand people now. Or the ancient settlement of Cappadocia (Turkey): people united several underground cities in a complex that accommodated 60 thousand people .. In Poland, since the XIII century, there is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It can rightly be considered an underground city: the length of its excavations is 300 kilometers, the depth is 327 meters. This mine for a long time was a dwelling for the families of workers who turned the salt dungeons into architectural masterpieces. Here stood statues carved from salt, pleasing the eye of the amazing work of the candelabrum, the unique salt chapel still admires. Now in the mine there is a cinema, a cafe and even a small artificial lake. Similarly, a silver mine in Sala Silvergruva in Sweden was built. There, at a depth of 150 meters, the hotel, concert halls, cafes and other leisure facilities are located.
People have been using underground storages (Caves, holes, iceboxes) for thousands of years. There is a special microclimate, no rains, and constant atmosphere inside. People used natural caves and exhausted mines to store goods.
A separate story – the buildings created for the needs of defense. In the 1960s, a bunker was constructed in the US under Mount Cheyenne (Colorado), which housed the center of the command of the aerospace defense of North America. In these premises, in the event of a nuclear war, thousands of people could be saved. Now the command of the US airspace defense was transferred to another place, but the underground settlement remained, people still live there. Similar protective bunkers are available in many capitals of the world. In Beijing, an underground shelter, the construction of which began in 1969, stretched for 30 kilometers. In the underground city, schools, hospitals, shops, hairdressers, restaurants and even a skating rink were built. At the same time, forty percent of Beijing residents could be accommodated there! In 2000, this underground complex was opened for visiting.
During the Cold War Era, the Soviet Union built the unknown amount of underground storages, which are called RosRezerv now, for regularly replenished reserves of long storing goods, food, equipment, weapons and machinery, that “might never be used, but we’ll keep it just in case”. The information about the locations and amount of the storages is classified. Most of them are old mines, upgraded and increased in sizes. As soon as two sides were involved in the Cold War, the same (or similar) underground warehouses can be found in the United States and other NATO and Warsaw Pact countries.
Today, this well-known basic technology has been developed to a significantly increased level and let us building underground structures faster, easier and cheaper.
The spatial configuration of underground structures is almost not affected by the relief. Moreover, the underground pedestrian and transport routes create the most convenient traffic conditions with the minimum height of vertical movement.
The construction costs for new underground structures are sometimes 2-3 or more times higher than the costs of similar land-based buildings and structures. However, a land price, height restrictions, sanitary protection zones etc. shall be considered for calculating forthcoming expenditures and previously invested costs for the territory development, as well as calculating the expected cumulative social and economic effect.
Paraphrasing Youssef M. A. Hashash “Intensive urbanization leaves us only two options – you can move up or down.” So is it possible to change the traditional city to its underground “reflection”, at least partiallly? The most convincing answer to this question is the experience of Canadian Montreal. The Underground City, often called the “inner city”, is the largest dungeon in the world. The area used for housing and work is more than 3.5 million square meters. In winter Underground City is visited by about half a million people every day. There are almost everything necessary for life: shopping centers, hotels, banks, museums, universities, metro stations, railway junctions, bus station and other entertainment and business infrastructure. Residents of houses connected to the underground city, go down in the cold for shopping, without leaving the street. In addition, they use underground roads to quickly get from one point of a land city to another. Montreal is by no means the only example. There are also projects of so called “earth scrapers” or sky scrapers going down in different countries are being developed – in United States, UAE and Mexico.
Although the cost of underground construction is higher than that of above-ground construction, this is partially or completely compensated for by the smaller amount of necessary investment on the surface. Energy consumption (the need for heating and cooling) of an underground building during operation will be lower than that of a building on the surface due to a higher thermal insulation capacity. This long-term benefit will contribute to the fact that in future developers will invest in the development of underground construction projects in order to reduce significant energy costs.
With the active mode of storage, when a large number of products and materials are processed daily, storage facilities are usually equipped with horizontal mine workings that have direct transport links to surface railway or automobile communications. One of the largest underground facilities of this kind is a refrigerated warehouse near Kansas City (USA), located in excavations carried out on limestone from the sides of spent quarries (the useful area of underground structures is about 5 hectares). A large underground storage facility for active storage in Inkerman (Crimea, CCCP) is built in the mine workings (10-12 m high, 200 m long) formed as a result of excavation of limestone-shell rock. Underground coolers of small capacity are operated in CCCP in the Far North, where the cold of the enclosing permafrost is used. In the case of passive storage for storages, it is common to use the workings of waste mines with vertical trunks. The capacity of such warehouses, constructed in CCCP, USA, Italy, France, Sweden and other countries, up to 1 million m3. The cost of building underground storage of perishable food products is several tens of percent of the cost of land storage (including refrigerators) of the same capacity. They are mainly for the construction of access workings and transport communications.
Underground storage of industrial goods is arranged in mining workings, the cross-sections of which allow the use of mechanization tools for intra-warehouse operations, as well as those where it is economically expedient to maintain a constant relative humidity of air. An important prerequisite for the arrangement of large warehouses in waste mines is the tunnel opening method, which makes it possible to use the main railway or road transport in the future. The area of modern storage facilities in underground facilities reaches several tens of thousands of m2. Thus, the drug store in Missouri (USA) covers an area of 8.5 thousand m2. Stability of ambient temperature and humidity in the premises, high fire safety, convenience of protection, etc. served as the basis for placing in underground structures (constructed both in normal and in permafrost) storages of perishable foodstuffs
Due to the natural favorable microclimate and stable temperature in underground storages, vegetables do not get spoiled for a long time. Such warehouses do not practically require heating; however, they need a good ventilation system, which, among other things, allows significant reduction of the humidity. But if a warehouse is intended for winter storage of preserves and wines, then for natural storage conditions it is not required to change natural temperature and humidity parameters.
Having the right ventilation system, underground warehouses can be used for library storage and archives of various kinds of documentation, film rolls and photographic films. When designing archival buildings, special attention shall be paid to fire fighting and waterproofing systems. To communicate with the surface and to deliver people and necessary materials, rail and road tunnels can be used, as well as elevator shafts. As a result, warehouse services will be relatively cheap, considering that underground structures had been already naturally ‘constructed”.
The underground storage warehouse can be used for safe storage of explosive, aggressive and harmful materials. In many countries ground-based gas storage facilities are located near big cities. This is done in order to ensure uninterrupted flow of natural gas (in cold season the demand increases by 2-10 times).
One of the brightest examples of alternative use of underground storage facilities is the underground blood bank built by the Finnish Red Cross Society in Helsinki. It consists of three tunnels (each 90m in length, 10m in width and 6m in height). There is a separately constructed cold storage warehouse with the area of 250 m2 with the constant temperature of -40 ° C.
Based on the information above, it can be concluded that the world experience demonstrates the trend of further underground infrastructure development in the urban environment.
This creates an opportunity to provide additional conveniences for city residents without cardinal interventions in the general urban architecture.
Underground storage of drinking water are concretered chambers of a large section (over 70 m2), separated by lintels; are operated in Norway, are being built in Brazil and other countries. Similar underground facilities with a capacity of more than 8,000 m3, with overall savings in construction costs (compared to terrestrial storage) are distinguished by a constant storage temperature, resistance to external influences, lower operating costs.
Underground structures that are adapted to underground storage of oil, gas and their derivatives, along with natural geological structures, are special mining workings carried out in gas-impermeable rocks (including permafrost), the development of waste mines, incl. chamber brine, cavities in plastic clays, created by the explosion of camouflage charges, as well as salt deposits – after leaching of minerals. Advantages of such underground facilities in front of ground tanks are: reduction of losses from evaporation, low fire hazard, protection from external influences, high technical and economic efficiency, etc. Already by the end of the 1960s, In the USA, about 98% of liquefied gases were stored in underground conditions. The main strategic reserves of oil and oil products of this country are also concentrated in underground facilities. The efficiency of underground storage increases with the increase in its capacity (especially after 40 thousand m3).
For underground disposal of harmful wastes, salt formations, granite massifs, dense clays are most effective. Underground structures of this kind include boreholes (used for injection), areas in unfit aquifers, and the like. geological structures or the development of waste mines
Adaptation of storage logistics and automation systems for underground life
It is clear, that modern storages should be automated as much as possible. Nowadays, the implementation of “helping robots” in storages has already become reality.
Chuck, the robot manufactured by 6 River Systems Inc., looks like an ordinary warehouse trolley with the dimensions of approximately 1 m by 0.6 m and a height of 1.5 m, but unlike a trolley, it is autonomous and is driven by its own electric motor and battery. Unlike the previous development of Kiva Systems, the Chuck robot is focused on working in tandem with a human.
Chuck is able to find a shelf with the necessary goods, but cannot take them off the shelves. It is equipped with a shelf for goods placed at an altitude of circa 1 m, which can be adjusted higher or lower to be convenient for a warehouse employee. A small display on robots top shows the information about the next product that the warehouse employee is going to take from the shelf., No special preparation of the warehouse is required to use Chuck – no need for stickers or cables to mark and limit the workspace. Built-in sensors allow the robot to navigate the warehouse on its own. The system can be used on all types of storage floors. Chuck’s maximum load is 70 kg. Robot’s shelves are convenient for containers of various sizes and types, depending on the task. The Chuck’s batteries allow him to work two shifts in a row without recharging, the batteries are charged rather quickly.
It is clear, that bringing the storages underground will raise another issue – increased electrical load to feed a lot of facility equipment: lightning, ventilation, fire suppression systems, drainage pumps.
There is enough free space for any need in a flat city with big outskirts. But sometimes you are limited in space literally like in an island city. Using the hive concept, just a small spot of land is required to organize an entrance for delivery, and all the other things can be hidden in depth. Really deep storage can be installed even in the downtown, with a small footprint. It might be called an “earth scraper” – the antipode for a skyscraper. A deep underground storage is a vertical pipe (round or square), which has one entrance for a truck with the size of a standard house. Goods are delivered and then distributed in underground storage area (by robots, or with automatic cranes, for example). Orders are prepared by order-picking robots and delivered by dozens of drones flying out of a vertical shaft like bumblebees, who live in holes of the ground, and returning home for recharge to be ready for a next delivery. The idea is to drill a hole vertically, similar to a rocket shaft, and to wide it up to the limits of the land plot. The storage area is arranged along the walls with an up and down corridor for delivery by drones. Advantages of this method are obvious. An owner does not need to maintain long tunnels for cargo traffic, it is faster to be built even with the open method –just start excavating and go on with the casing well technology. The well is covered with a roof having an automated hatch for drones. This is a good solution for a distribution center with not so heavy and huge cargo items to be delivered. For a bigger size, let’s say a sea container size, we need to find another solution such as the Hyperloop system.
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